What Is the Michigan Bar Exam Like?
What is the Michigan bar exam like? If you’re taking the upcoming July bar exam, I’m sure you’re doing a lot of worrying. What all is going to be on the test? How can I remember all of this material? What happens if I fail? What is taking the Michigan bar exam like? How can I reduce bar exam test day stress?
As a fellow taker of a July version of the Michigan bar exam, I am here to help you with the last question. I can tell you exactly what taking the Michigan bar exam is like, and offer a few inside tips on how to reduce bar exam test day stress. But before I get into just what goes down those few days, I want you to remember something: every single taker is feeling just like you are right now. Everyone is worried and stressed. There is nothing wrong with feeling that way. You just have to push past that feeling and focus on doing everything you can to succeed on this test!
NOTE: Michigan is switching to the Uniform Bar Exam starting with the February 2023 administration! Find more information here.
Tips To Reduce Bar Exam Test Day Stress – From Someone Who’s Been Through It!
Here is a rough timeline of my bar exam experience, and tips on how to reduce bar exam test day stress!
Day 1: Monday
Yes, I said Monday. The easiest way to get an advantage actually happens on Monday. I would highly recommend getting a hotel room in East Lansing beginning already on Monday night. That way you can get settled, unpack, relax, and not be stressing and rushing to get ready in the morning on Tuesday. The best part of getting there early on Monday is that, in Michigan, the Breslin Center is open for you to go in and look around beforehand.
For pretty much everyone, the first view of the testing conditions is overwhelming. Rows upon rows of tables are set up on the basketball court. It’s deathly quiet. It’s cold. Getting this first view of what taking the Michigan bar exam is like prior to test day is beyond beneficial. You can familiarize yourself with where the clocks are, where the bathrooms are, what the temperature is like, and just how to get there in general. By Tuesday, you already know exactly what kind of setting you will be in, and maybe you can relax a little more.
Please don’t be ashamed to bring a parent or a friend to stay with you, or at least to keep you company Monday evening. One of my parents was nice enough to drive up to take me to dinner on Monday. It helps to have someone around to take your mind off of the stressful situation. This is a great way to reduce bar exam test day stress! At that point, you probably already know as much of the subject matter as you are going to, so focus on getting yourself in a good place. Get something good to eat, make sure you have everything ready to go for the morning, and get a good night’s sleep.
Day 2: Tuesday – the essay portion
Important tip: set multiple alarms. You never know what could happen and you don’t want to risk oversleeping. Try to get there early so that you can get everything set up, especially if you have a computer. It can get cold in the testing areas, so dress in layers. You will have a chance to return to your room during lunch to change if you need to. When you get to the exam site, go to the bathroom, get a drink, do whatever you need to so that you are prepared to sit for an extended period of time. You can go to the bathroom during the test, but you don’t want to have to take the time.
There will be a lot of time spent listening to instructions from proctors, shuffling seating arrangements, and filling out the typical standardized test information forms. Even after each portion of the exam, it takes way longer than you’d think to collect all of the materials. So plan on being in your seat for much longer than the 3 or 2 hours of actual test-taking.
Once you start taking the test, time will absolutely fly. Make sure you routinely check the nearest clock. If you are easily distracted, it would help to bring a set of earplugs. While there won’t be any talking, the air system in the building will be on, hundreds of people will be typing, and you never know who might have a cold! Proctors will be walking up and down the rows of tables the entire time – try not to get nervous when they are near you! Just tune everything out besides the test.
You will have plenty of time for lunch in between sections. Feel free to go back to your hotel or take advantage of the lunch that your school might offer. The arena will be selling food as well. Keep a close eye on the time though, and make sure you aren’t late getting back for the second part!
When you finish the essay portion, people will rehash it. Everyone is going to talk about what they put for this question, and how that question was just impossible! If you didn’t put the same thing as someone else, DON’T PANIC. Do not get yourself worked up. It’s over. It’s done. You can’t change anything. It’s human nature to want to go back to your room and check some of your answers. I did. But beware, this is a double-edged sword: if you gave the correct answer, you’ll feel great! If you find out, however, that you gave the wrong answer, you’ll feel incredibly discouraged. So proceed at your own risk!
Day 3: Wednesday – the MBE
Procedurally, Wednesday will work very similarly to Tuesday, except there are no computers. My advantage to offer for prepping for Wednesday is to plan ahead of time how you want to handle your hotel room. Personally I paid for an extra night at the hotel.That way I could just keep all of my stuff in my room while I finished the test. I didn’t want to have to deal with packing everything up Wednesday morning, making multiple trips to my car, and then still getting over to the arena on time. This really helped reduce bar exam test day stress.
If you don’t want to pay for an extra night, maybe inquire if your hotel would allow you to pay a smaller fee to stay in your room past checkout time. Additionally, this presents another advantage to having someone stay with you – they can finish up with your things and check out for you while you are taking the test. Ultimately, try to reduce bar exam test day stress as much as possible so you can focus solely on the bar. You don’t need to be worrying about getting up early enough to have time to take care of your stuff.
Wednesday should be a little less stressful for you than Tuesday. You already have one day under your belt so you know exactly what to expect at the arena. The timing will be the same, and there shouldn’t be any surprises. Two more sections and you are done!! Same principles applying following Wednesday’s portion as Tuesday’s. People are going to talk, and you’re going to start second-guessing yourself. Then you’ll start counting in your mind how many questions you got wrong, and what that means for your overall score. Try to avoid falling into that trap!
Hopefully now you have a better idea of what taking the Michigan bar exam is like. Everyone handles and prepares for the situation differently. So, don’t feel like you have to do what I did, or what your friends are planning on doing. Do what you need to reduce bar exam test day stress. Good luck!
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